Stressed out? Here are some sustainable ways to cope during hard times.
Finding and living with healthy coping mechanisms is a lifelong practice that we learn to harness in recovery. There are many ways to cope, both healthy and unhealthy, which we will discuss in this article. We will also dive into the importance of self-awareness and preparing for times of increased stress using self-care rituals. Most importantly, be kind to yourself as you take the journey into healthy coping mechanisms. It’s not always easy, but it will make life more sustainable, less stressful, and more full.
Let’s Define “Coping”
We often hear about “coping skills” or “unhealthy coping mechanisms.” Maybe we can even list some healthy ones and some not-so-healthy ones. However, what does coping really mean? And why do we need to cope? When we talk about coping, we’re referring to the ability to deal with something, to survive or get through life’s difficulties. There are so many different ways to cope or to survive. Technically, we’re coping if we avoid the issue or turn to drugs and alcohol. These are examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Seeking support from family and friends or practicing meditation are examples of healthy ways to cope. It’s important to remember that just because we are “coping” or “surviving” a situation, doesn’t mean that we’re doing what’s best for our recoveries and overall mental health. This is why it’s so important to take stock of your current coping mechanisms.
Taking Stock of Your Current Coping Mechanisms
Think about how you deal with stressful events or times. Think about how you manage your stress when a trigger pops up or you’re arguing with a family or friend. Take a few minutes to truly reflect on your current coping mechanisms. Are they working for you? Are they making the situation better or worse? Do your methods of coping make you feel an overall decrease in stress or increase? Are you truly dealing with the problem or are you choosing to avoid it? These are some key questions to ask when you’re taking an honest inventory of your current coping mechanisms. Now that you know where you are, you can start to move forward and adjust your coping skills as needed. Additionally, remember not to judge yourself or get down on yourself if your coping skills are less than healthy. This is a process and it takes time, practice, and lots of recovery tools to truly master. Also, everyone slips up sometimes and slides back into negative coping mechanisms. If you catch yourself doing this, simply take inventory, acknowledge the issue, and move forward.
Getting Prepared During Times of Heightened Stress
When we’re going about our daily lives and living in accordance with the routines we’ve made for ourselves, we don’t’ necessarily find it as necessary to employ coping mechanisms. Especially after we’re well into our recovery, we’re aware of our triggers and stressors, and we probably know how to avoid them or deal with them in healthy ways. However, life doesn’t always go according to plan. Unfortunately, stressful events happen. Loved ones pass away, relationships end, old friendships resurface, cravings happen, people say hurtful things, we get injured, we have negative thoughts or slide into a depression, etc. Positive and negative events are all part of life. Times of heightened stress will arise and it’s important to be prepared and equipped with a healthy set of coping mechanisms during these times. Sometimes, we can prepare for these moments. If you know you’re going home for a weekend and it might bring up old triggers, it’s time to start mentally preparing and practicing elevated self-care. Meditate more, do more yoga, eat healthily, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Additionally, reach out to your therapist, friends in recovery, and other trusted professionals and let them know that you’re going to be going through a stressful time. We want to be prepared for these times and we want to employ healthy coping mechanisms. You might need to take extra-good care of yourself during times of heightened stress. Pay attention to your moods, triggers, and emotions. You also might want to create a coping plan for days or time periods when you know you’ll be more prone to slide into negative coping mechanisms. Carve out time for talking to your therapist, meditating, practicing mindfulness, or journaling.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Now that we’re aware of our current coping mechanisms and the importance of preparing during times of stress, let’s look at some examples of healthy coping skills. Whereas unhealthy coping mechanisms usually make the problem worse, healthy ones have a way of soothing our nerves and creating an anti-inflammatory effect on the problem at hand. Problem-solving through analyzing the situation and seeing where there’s room to learn and grow is an example of a healthy coping skill. Additionally, seeking support from trusted loved ones and therapists, practicing self-care rituals like yoga or exercise, and finding a support system of friends are all healthy coping mechanisms. Avoiding the issue with retail therapy, drugs, alcohol, or the TV might feel good at the time, but will only serve to make things worse when you finally have to face the music.
Self-awareness large part of developing healthy coping mechanisms and spotting unhealthy ones. Meditating, journaling, asking for feedback from friends, and mindfulness practices are all ways to increase self-awareness and get more attuned to your coping mechanisms.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 844-857-5992 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you – it’s never too late to begin taking steps towards a happier, healthier life.